Hooking up

New venture is a sort of Match.com for bargain-hungry anglers and charter captains with unfilled boats
Author:
Publish date:
The online booking service sells individual spots on fishing boats worldwide, creating a more affordable way for weekend anglers to enjoy private charter sportfishing.

The online booking service sells individual spots on fishing boats worldwide, creating a more affordable way for weekend anglers to enjoy private charter sportfishing.

Whether it’s frugality in a new economy or a societal sea change about valuing experiences more than possessions, rentals and fractional ownership start-ups have clearly gained traction in the industry.

The number of companies that specialize in sharing boats or resort vacation homes continues to grow as Americans seem more willing than ever to bypass buying or to share the cost of ownership to enjoy the lifestyle.

David Lohmann, 32, an entrepreneur who has been hooked on fishing since he was 5, has launched Share A Fishing Charter.

“With the aging of America’s baby-boomer generation, our angler population has been on a steady decline,” Lohmann says. “The fishing industry is in need of a stimulus to reinvigorate our younger generations and provide a new way to fish at an affordable rate that can be attainable and enjoyed by anglers of all skill levels.”

Using what Lohmann calls the first online booking service that sells individual spots on fishing charters worldwide, Share a Fishing Charter has created a more affordable way for weekend anglers to experience private charter sportfishing.

The business model is designed to be mutually beneficial for all parties. Boat owners get greater exposure and help filling their charters and booking more trips. Meanwhile, anglers save a few bucks by spreading the cost among fellow fishing customers.

Lohmann and his father, Richard, co-founded the family-owned and operated South Florida business, which has satellite offices in the Florida Keys and Costa Rica.

The company launched in October 2013 with a six-month foundation-building process of recruiting charter captains before it opened its doors to anglers in May 2014.

The Lohmanns were clearly on to something because, as of April, they say, more than 500 charter firms had signed on (a mix of fleets of as many as 10 boats and single-boat operators) and more than 1,000 anglers had paid for the shared fishing trips.

Share a Fishing Charter has more than 18,000 charters listing across the continental United States and Central and South America.

“More recently, we have expanded our offering of backcountry trips and have introduced a non-share option for anglers who want the boat to themselves,” David Lohmann says.

‘A wider net’

David Lohmann says the concept came from personal experience.

“After being constantly limited by the high price point of charter fishing, we began deliberating on a technology that would enable us to fish more and spend less. Charter fishing has always had the highest price point in that book of activities you see when you go on vacation,” he says. “After we ran the idea by some of our favorite captains — ones who we trusted and knew they would represent our new service with top levels of professionalism and performance — and they agreed that this service was needed by the sportfishing community, our new idea was born.”

The start-up team researched and fished with top-rated captains in their respective markets and invited them to join the service. As it grew, the outreach became matched with captains who found the company organically or via captain referrals, or anglers who wanted a captain to use the service.

Capt. Dan Matthews owns Miss Chief Charters in Key Largo, Fla., where he runs a 31 Bertram Sportfish. A 15-year charter veteran, Matthews signed with Share A Fishing Charter last fall.

“I was a little skeptical at first, but I’m happy with it so far, and [Lohmann] has a great idea with the site because it casts a wider net and makes it easier to bring splits together,” he says.

“Splits” is charter lingo for split charters — splitting the cost of a private fishing charter with others — and it’s the basis of the company’s business model.

For owner/operators such as Matthews, coordinating multiple parties to share a charter can be a challenge.

“It’s a bit of a hassle trying to get people to agree on the same date, the same time, the same fishing grounds,” he says. “It sometimes takes a dozen calls to bring splits together. Now I can send them the link [to Share A Fishing Charter] and they can do it themselves, which lets me focus on my core business.”

Online reservations

The resulting product is a custom-built reservation system that automatically divides a charter into individual tickets, which are available online for purchase.

“The best part is, once two anglers book, the charter is confirmed to fish, and every additional angler that joins shares the cost and lowers the price for everyone on board,” he says.

“Our policy protects each and every angler,” Lohmann says. “If cancellations occur, the price the other anglers pay will never increase.”

The company has a 30-day benchmark, he adds.

“Any cancellation over 30 days, the angler is not responsible for the ticket price. Under 30 days, the canceling angler forfeits his deposit only. Under 48 hours, the angler loses his spot and forfeits his ticket value,” Lohmann says.

Capt. Greg Arizpe owns Lands End Charters, a 22-boat charter fleet operating out of Cabo San Lucas on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula.

He says his company joined Share A Fishing Charter after struggling to manage the many moving and changing parts of trying to organize a successful shared charter.

“We had a specific page on our website where we would promote shared fishing trips and folks could buy a seat on a charter, but it was extremely difficult to manage,” he says. “We would have to track each request, whether online or by phone, and coordinate dates and times. It was a real strain on our resources.”

Because Lands End receives several requests for charter shares every week, Share A Fishing Charter offered an solution to its business challenge. Since Lands End joined in January, it has had 13 fishing trips arranged through Share A Fishing Charter.

“We have had success with SAFC, and it has been working for us,” Arizpe says. “Although the number of bookings represents a small percentage of our overall business, we believe that these folks would not have had an opportunity to fish without SAFC. So one fishing trip booked on SAFC represents at least two people who may not have had the experience otherwise.”

Growth and acceptance have been incredible from both anglers and captains, Lohmann says, and the company has been working with industry partners such as the International Game Fish Association, the American Sportfishing Association, Keep America Fishing, Ladies, Let’s Go Fishing and others to build awareness. Charter associations, marinas and fishing apps are seeking partnerships with Share A Fishing Charter, he says.

Later this year, the company plans to expand its full-service angler concierge, which will not only cater to shared charters, but also to corporate, luxury, multiday and vacation trips and other services.

“We also have introduced a website program for captains to improve or even rebuild their websites and optimize their online presence,” Lohmann says. The majority of charter firm members have an icon on their site that links to the Share A Fishing Charter home page, as well as other participating businesses.

Lohmann stresses that Share A Fishing Charter is a new type of shared service.

“Unlike mainstream shared services, where owners rent out an asset they are not using, SAFC has created a technology that automatically divides a high-cost activity into individual pieces for purchase,” he says.

“Sharing the cost of any premium good or service increases the market for that service, and every angler should experience professional fishing, learning best practices, and most importantly how to enjoy our amazing sport.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue.

Related

MDCE Day 3

Dealers and exhibitors were pleased with the show results.